I was putting together the final touches on my revamped and upgraded online program called Your One Day Business Plan when I was reminded how many small businesses the program has helped already.
You see, I use some members of my course to trial the changes and see if the developments have improved the product.
One of them said that he was using it to write his annual business plans “because it’s as fresh as ever.” That got me thinking about small business owners who have used the program so I contacted a few to see how writing a business plan has helped them.
They were so clear that a business plan really helped them to grow their businesses that I thought I would share three stories with you.
The first is a Pilates Studio called Vibrancy.
It is a relatively new business having only started in 2017. The owner Jez trained as a physiotherapist and had worked in a Pilates Studio and found that it was better remedial therapy than straight physio.
She didn’t prepare her first business plan until her second year, in 2018.
She found that a business plan provided her with great clarity about what kind of business she wanted to build, and in doing so, took a lot of confusion and stress away.
“When I started, I simply thought my business was my way of providing myself an income,” she said. “I knew I enjoyed teaching Pilates, but that was all I’d thought about it.”
“I had no real direction, I just did what came next until I had to make a decision.”
This meant that she found herself confused when she had to make decisions about the business. One of her biggest decisions was about whether to hire more instructors as more and more people signed up. She wasn’t sure she wanted to borrow money to finance the expansion and worried about hiring new people.
“This made me stall,” she remembered. “Instead of making decisions as and when I needed to, I worried about them and tried to think of all kinds of scenarios about what would or what should happen.”
She felt paralysis by analysis.
When she prepared her first business plan, it all fell into place for her.
“When I reviewed what my purpose was in my business life and analysed my vision for the business, I was able to see a clear way forward into the future.”
She found that the business plan expanded on her fuzzy vision for the future of the business, which led to her being able to define various check-points along her business journey so that she could check how she was going.
“The plan helped me to create measurements for how my business was going, in line with what I wanted to achieve.”
This meant that all the decisions came easily because she was able to gauge them in accordance with all the actions she had set out. If something didn’t fit into what she had to achieve next, she decided against it.
“I had envisioned a very personal business, which meant that even though I wanted to grow, I didn’t want to grow a great big business empire – all I wanted in business was an ongoing, enjoyable business that helped people individually. I wanted to be able to see the way people became healthier rather than create an exercise factory.”
So, her plan helped her to define her rate of growth and her eventual size, which helped her decide to hire only one full-time instructor that she could train in her techniques.
The second story I want to share with you is that of Brad, the electrician.
Brad had been running his electrical contractor business for about 8 years before he wrote his first business plan last year.
“I hadn’t realised how disorganised I was,” said Brad.
While his business grew and was busy, he spent all his time working in the business. As he got busy, he hired other electricians and apprentices until he had a team of five working for him.
“But I was really unhappy and stressed,” Brad said. “Customers were waiting days before someone got back to them, my staff were taking too long at jobs. We were busy, but my profits were dwindling.”
The business planning process helped Brad to organise his business.
He prepared his business plan with his whole team participating.
They mapped out where he wanted the business to go and found some revealing facts when they analysed their strengths and weaknesses.
“While I had a good idea of the type and scale of business I wanted to build, I hadn’t really made the connection that there were a lot of gaps in the way I was set up and the way we operated the business. If we carried on the way we ordinarily did things, I would never build the business the way I wanted.”
Once they defined their ultimate business, the whole team realised that they had individual roles to play.
Analysing the gaps also helped them to identify systems and resources they needed to create in order to help the business grow and to improve efficiency.
“Since we agreed on the goals during the process, my guys really bought into the show,” he said. “They really felt they had a stake in how things were done and what had to be done.”
It took a while but Brad now feels everyone knows what to do and his life became much more streamlined and stress-free.
“It’s amazing how good it feels when everyone is pulling in the same direction.”
The third planning success story is about Macpherson Parker, a four-partner firm of lawyers.
Macpherson Parker had been in business for a long time. Their founding partners had already retired and the current partners have been at the helm for some 20 years.
They had prepared business plans about 20 years before but had never made it a habit.
“It just seemed that we were too busy looking after our clients’ businesses and had no time to think about our own,” said Peter the senior partner. “In fact when Rob (one of the other partners) suggested we prepare our first business plan in years, I thought it was a waste of time.”
The problem was that being a profitable law firm, they hadn’t seen any need. They seemed to be doing fine. All in all, there were 25 people working in the firm, they were all busy, and income was coming in alright.
But under the surface, there were a number of hidden issues.
Staff retention was not great and recently, they had lost a number of key staff through resignations. The partners disagreed with each other about strategy but nobody really talked about it for any length of time so things just remained unresolved.
When decisions had to be made, there were lots of ideas but little agreement. So big, important changes never got made.
They didn’t realise it but they were just holding time and the business was not growing.
After some persuasion, they all agreed to go through the business planning process.
“I’m sorry to say we hadn’t done it earlier,” Peter said. “It brought the answers to so many issues to light.”
“In fact, it revealed a lot of serious issues that we just hadn’t considered as serious but could have been partnership-breaking!”
They found the business plan provided them with an agreed strategic direction forward. The partners had a lot more in common than they thought because the day-to-day disagreements distracted them about what they all wanted.
Important strategic objectives were agreed to, including how to provide for growth and succession planning. This meant that the stages of transition from one growth phase to another was laid out. Finally, they were all able to agree on strategies that took them in the same direction, so everyone started to genuinely contribute to the management of the firm.
This created a real strength in management, rather than a feeling that Peter was making everyone do things for no reason.
Their mutually agreed strategies, especially around staff hires and career pathways meant that the business could be organised to become scalable.
Their strategies fixed a lot of unacknowledged gaps between reality and desired growth, and the progression of the firm became totally manageable.
These three stories show that business planning helps every type of business grow.
Business planning helps new businesses and established businesses alike.
Business planning helps sole traders and professional companies alike.
Business planning provides a clear strategic direction against which all decisions can be measured.
Business planning defines measurements of “success” so that you know how you are going at any time, and those measurements form clear milestones and goals.
Business planning highlights the gap between what you are capable of, and what you intend to do. This means that you are clear about what you need to build up within your resources and capabilities.
Business planning gives you clear strategies of actions to take you each step of the way.
And finally, being clear about where you want to go and how you are to do it means that business planning removes the “what do I do next” from your business.
If you are interested in preparing your business plan, a good start is to get my free business planning checklist called “A Roadmap From Stress To Success – Your Business Planning Checklist”.
I have written numerous other blog posts about what a business plan does for your business and the simple step-by-step process of preparing your own business plan. You can find them at teikoh.com or, even better, why don’t you get my blog posts sent directly to your inbox by signing up – and don’t worry, I won’t spam or release your details to anyone else, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
See you next week!